CINCINNATI — The AFC North is one of the best divisions in the NFL. The Browns, Steelers and Ravens all made the playoffs last season and they're all led by talented quarterbacks.
Pittsburgh has a future Hall of Famer in Ben Roethlisberger. Cleveland has a former No. 1 overall pick and Heisman Trophy winner with Baker Mayfield and former NFL MVP Lamar Jackson is running things in Baltimore.
Despite playing in such a loaded division, second-year quarterback Joe Burrow might be playing better than his AFC North counterparts.
He's completed 72.9% of his passes for 988 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. Burrow has also led the Bengals on two game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Meanwhile, Mayfield has completed 65.5% of his passes for 935 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Jackson, who is currently playing through a back injury, has completed 60.5% of his passes for 1,077 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. He's also ran for 279 yards and two touchdowns.
Roethlisberger is playing poorly so far this season. The 39-year-old is struggling with his downfield passes and the Steelers are 1-3 on the year. He's completed 64.1% of his passes for 1,033 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions.
Burrow also leads the division in yards-per-attempt (9.2). Jackson isn't far behind (8.7), followed by Mayfield (8.3) and Roethlisberger (6.1)
“I think I’ve gotten better and better each week," Burrow said following the Bengals' 24-21 win over the Jaguars. "There’s going to be games like that where you have to step up and make plays. I’m really happy with my performance tonight, and I’m going to build on that and keep getting better and better.”
The Bengals' star is coming off of a brutal left knee injury, but he's flashed his potential over the past few weeks. Cincinnati has more talent on its' roster than it's had in recent seasons, but if they're going to beat the Ravens and the Browns, they're going to need Burrow to play at a high level.
The 24-year-old also has the highest Pro Football Focus grade through four games. Burrow (86 overall) is slightly ahead of Jackson (80) and is significantly higher than Mayfield (68.8) and Roethlisberger (55.5).
Burrow had one of the best halves, if not the best half of his career last week against Jacksonville. He completed 17-of-20 second half attempts for 253 yards on Thursday night. Burrow is one of two players to complete at least 85% of his passes for 250 or more yards in the second half of a game over the last two seasons according to ESPN Stats and Info.
"It’s not surprising. When the line gives him time like they did, he’s going to be really tough to deal with," head coach Zac Taylor said. "We have a lot of weapons, and we’re missing a big one tonight in Tee (Higgins). We count on everybody to step up. He hit Samaje (Perine) for a huge first down in empty. So, again, Joe is just seeing the field really well right now, and you put it in his hands and let him go."
It's still early, but Burrow is playing like a star over the past few weeks and his stellar play has translated to wins for the Bengals.
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